Nestled along a natural harbor on the Indian Ocean, Dar es Salaam is a fishing village turned multicultural epicenter. It holds the title as Tanzania’s largest and richest city and the third fastest growing in Africa behind Bamako and Lagos. Now boasting a hefty 4 million multicultural landscape of about four million inhabitants, the population of Dar es Salaam—“the residence of peace”—is expected to reach over five million by 2020.

The reason for this steady growth is obvious, as Dar es Salaam straddles some of the most important sea routes in the world. East Africa’s second busiest port, it has secured its place as an essential and ever-growing commercial hub. Furthermore, while it lost its status as the nation’s capital to Dodoma in 1974, Dar es Salaam still retains its stronghold on international corporate entrepreneurs and Tanzania’s government bureaucracy. Don’t be fooled though. This is no watered down political town. Over the decades, the Sultans, Germans, British, and various foreigners have exercised their influence to create a multicultural melting pot where African Tanzanians, South Asians, European expats, and pockets of Catholics, Lutherans, and Muslims all contribute to the atmosphere, especially in lively Oyster Bay. This diversity is best witnessed in the bold cultural cuisine and crafts. The city possesses an eclectic international food scene featuring everything from traditional Tanzanian barbecue and Zanzibari specialties, to Thai, Chinese, and American hotspots. The popular Tingatinga craft markets and the vibrant rise of Bongo Flava hip-hop music are even more examples of its multinational roots.

Dar es Salaam is a significant international travel hub and provides access to cities all over the world, including Amsterdam, London, Zurich, Dubai, and Johannesburg. Domestically, Ker & Downey considers Dar es Salaam the gateway to Zanzibar and southern Tanzania, as well as an important stop in itself. While many travelers tend to bypass the city completely, we feel that by sticking around the picturesque harbor, visitors will be rewarded with a fascinating down-to-earth yet prosperous picture of life in Tanzania.